KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia readies the ground for its general election, Britain is preparing for its biggest show – the Commonwealth Summit.
And the home of modern parliamentary democracy is going the extra mile to have Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak go over, despite knowing that the prospects are slim.
All other leaders of the 53-member grouping have confirmed participation for the 25th CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), which will be held in London and Windsor from April 16 to 20 under the theme “Towards a Common Future”.
British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell said the door would be kept open for Najib “till the last minute”.
She said Britain was hoping that the Prime Minister would change his mind and make a quick visit for the main event, the Leaders Retreat, on April 19.
“The PM explained to me that politically, it is a very difficult time to leave the country, and we understand that as he will want to be fully focused on the polls.
“As good friends, we are hoping for the best,” Treadell said in an interview.
The Malaysian delegation will be led by Senate president Tan Sri S.A. Vigneswaran, with Wisma Putra deputy secretary-general Datuk Kennedy Jawan (multilateral) representing the Foreign Minister.
Vigneswaran will, however, not be able to participate in the Leaders Retreat, which is restricted to heads of government.
Treadell said if Najib attended, Malaysia could formally put forward its interest to host the next CHOGM in 2020.
“Malaysia has expressed its interest, and so have other nations. But the proposal will have to come from the head of government,” she added.
Malaysia last hosted the biennial summit in 1989, which was its 11th edition, and is slated to host the 26th meet.
The meeting is held in a different member state and chaired by that nation’s respective prime minister or president who becomes the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office until the next meeting.
Usually, countries within the Commonwealth are former British colonies.
CHOGMs have attempted to orchestrate common policies on certain contentious issues and current events, with special focus on issues affecting member nations.
Treadell said Britain was looking forward to working with Malaysia across the four pillars identified for the latest meet – a more sustainable, fairer, prosperous and secure future.
She said the core principles of the Commonwealth, such as good governance, promoting the rule of law and democracy, and human rights, would be discussed.
“We want a collective approach, not a bigger nation dictating terms,” she added.
At the meet, Malaysia’s Kishva Ambigapathy, who was the first Asian to be appointed Commonwealth Youth Council chairman (2017/2018), will give up his post.